Transmedia Zurich: World Building Basics and Prototyping

WorldBuildingFor the Transmedia Zurich Meetup in December I gave a presentation on World Building. A truly fascinating topic, that brings together all the elements of origin, evolution, science, and story in one go.

You see, stories usually take place…somewhere. The location of a character drives their actions, and can define how they evolve in the story. The world gives the boundaries which a character exists within and grows within. At the meetup we discussed the basics of building worlds, what if means for character development, and how to prototype them with Unity3D.

  • Why Transmedia: Push/Pull Consumption Trends
  • Character development and basic plot lines
  • Influence of Alex McDowell
  • Character Journey and origins
  • Building worlds with Unity3D


TransmediaZH_5th Meetup.012-001World Prototyping

The concept of world building brings together elements of origin, and how a world can logically exist based on the parameters or boundaries you give it. This is all important for defining a coherent story, because your characters need to exist within this world, it is where the characters are challenged, the space which the evolve within, and conflict arises.

TransmediaZH_5th Meetup.010-001Characters and Story

Worlds and characters are two symbiotic elements. Like the brain and the body, one can not exist without the other. Many stories and movies are either character or world driven. That means that conflict and character evolution occurs because of a situation they are place in (defined by the world) or their personality is the main focus, and it doesn’t greatly matter if the movie takes place in New York or on Mars.

TransmediaZH_5th Meetup.016-001Character Journey

I like taking inspiration from user experience (UX) development methodologies for transmedia projects. In UX you often create a diagram called a user or customer journey map. This maps out the interactions between a user and a product like a mobile app. If we extend this tool to world building, we have the Character Journey. This diagram maps out the interaction between the character and world, based on the physical layout or laws of the world you have designed. This logistical process helps figure out how the world or it’s origin influences the characters and therefore the conflicts which arise in your story.

TransmediaZH_5th Meetup.019-001World Prototyping

From the UX world people are all about app prototyping and visualisation for testing out ideas. So I figured there are good ways to do this for world building, and there are. I like playing around with Unity 3D as a world building and pro typing platform. Unity 3D lets you paint landscapes easily like working with Photoshop. Via the asset store you can add houses, trees, tanks, etc. In this way you can easily build up the concept for a city or whole world, and if you’re more advanced I guess you could add custom physics laws and map out the interaction of physical characters with the environment. I however, am happy paining a valley with a lake and adding some tanks with cow camouflage. I like to image how cool it would be to work on a story like a Tolkien adventure, and use Unity 3D to map out the Shire or the journey to the Misty mountains.

TransmediaZH_5th Meetup.018-001

If you’d like to know more about transmedia and world building, check out the Transmedia Zurich meetup group, check out the last presentations on the TransmediaZH webpage, or signup for the Transmedia Toolkit, which is still in development.

2nd Transmedia Zurich Meetup – Narrative and Story in Games and Media

The second Transmedia Zurich (www.transmediazh.ch) meet up took place on June 27th, with a focus on Narrative and Story Structure in Games and Media at CoLab Zurich. We had Matthias Sala from Gbanga, who gave some awesome insight into mixed reality game development and nonlinear plot development, while I talked about classic story structure, including a focus on The Hero’s Journey.

Story Structure

Why is it that you can predict the key points of a sitcom without knowing all the details of the plot line? Mainly because we’re fead the same plot lines and story structures, reflected in myths we’ve been told since before we could speak.

  • Basics of classic story structure
  • Influence of Joseph Campbell (The Hero with a Thousand Faces)
  • Choosing a narrative can be used to target the emotional design of a product
  • Intro to the Hero Journey applied to game design

Mix Reality Game Design

Games as a form of interactive media require new story structures than from a traditional narrative, and in his presentation, Mathias Sala (Gbanga) discussed linear stories and stories with decision points, leading to nonlinear narratives and the challenges in creating such a project. Other main points included:

  • History of transmedia and mixed reality games
  • Development of Gbanga Famiglia
  • Complexity of non-linear plot development in games

Next Meetups

If you’re interested in more info on Transmedia and the intersection between story and technology, join the Zurich Transmedia meetup group or signup for the release of the Transmedia Toolkit.

1st Transmedia Zurich Meetup – LA to San Francisco


When I took a sabbatical as a doctoral student I went to Toyko for 3 months. When I was taking a sabbatical as an entrepreneur earlier this year, the destination was Los Angeles and San Francisco to learn about transmedia storytelling in California. I put together a little summary of my experience at the 2013 TransmediaSF Startup Weekend and exploring TransmediaLA meetup in Los Angeles. My main desire was to see how technology and storytelling are combined on the West Coast and in Silicon Valley, and get a feeling for how to use these ideas in Zurich and Switzerland. Along the way I connected with people from Swissnex San Francisco and learned about their Story2023 transmedia project.

I gave this talk at the TransmediaZH meetup group, which was held at Colab Zurich on May 22nd. It was a good way to discuss transmedia projects in general and see what other teams are working on in the Zurich area. It was also a good time to introduce the StoryHackZH concept.

StoryHack Zurich

What happens when we combine writers, designers, and developers together in a story first hackathon? We will see first hand how technology and design can be paired with stories to transform great ideas from the written to digital form. Why not take a Zurich-based novel and turn it into a location-story using Lost In Reality or Junaio or a new mobile app with the Metaio SDK? What would a Swiss-German cooking book look like as a mobile app, and how would that influence who uses it? That’s the purpose of StoryHackZH, to build a platform and community. Updates will be posted on the main webpage and twitter account: http://www.storyhack.ch/ / @storyhackzh

Stencil Bastards II – Zurich

Stencil Art Bastards II

The Stencil Bastards II show is currently going on (12. July – 30. August 2013) in Zurich and it’s well worth checking out. Featured artists include:

C215, M-City, Epsylon Point, Stf Moscato, Snub23, Penny, Czarnobyl, Pisa 73, Stew, 9Periodico and Zibe.

Curated by Christian Guemy, the show is hosted by the Starkart Gallery, which is an excellent venue for such an experience. A DJ played delightful strange beats from the garage while I wandered through the different rooms and basement of the house, where each artist takes over part of the space with their art.


Web Monday Zurich 2012 #3

The following are my chaotic notes from the Web Monday Zurich 2012 #3 at the SRF, the Swiss Radio and TV company. The topic was online media, how things are converging, and what to expect for the future. The presenters were SRF, Joiz, and Paper.li. The following notes are recountings from my head, not necessarily exactly what happened or what was said, it’s a bit Gonzo, and if that disturbs you then the Back Button is at your disposal. (more…)

Web Monday Zurich 2012 #4

This Monday was Web Monday which means I had the chance to see the lounge of the Swisscom building for this 4th 2012 event of Zurich startups and ideas coming together. These are my notes from the event, taken largely in the Gonzo style and sent off to press with minimal editing. Inaccuracies, misspelled thoughts and rampant exaggerations are to be expected. Read at your own risk…

There were just two fantastic topics on hand at this fine Web Monday Zurich: the Blue Lion incubator and Online conversion / optimization for startups, our fantastic host was Swisscom, the main telecommunications company in Switzerland. (more…)

Web Mobile Monday #2 Zurich 2012

I headed to Web Monday Zurich 2012 #2, which also happened to be Mobile Monday, it was a shared event at the HP building in Dubendorf, and the topic was Native vs. Hybrid vs. Web apps. As I’m now involved with developing Lost In Reality, a mobile storytelling app, I’m very into this topic of choosing native vs. web/hybrid, so this gathering came at the perfect time for me. The following is a recap from my iPad notes, I’m intermixing what the speakers said with what I thought in my head, so hold on as this recollection could get hairy. There were three excellent speakers:

  • Markus Leutwyler, HP: General overview on Web vs. Mobile vs. Native Apps
  • Colin Frei, Liip: A case study on web / hybrid apps
  • Vikram Kriplaney, local.ch: A case study on native apps

Markus Leutwyler from HP (@twtomcat)


Now everyone is an expert and can make a web page, mobile started two three years ago, now the app is on the rise, we go to apps, not webpages. So now where are we today? Can everyone make a web app now? The web has a low entry barrier and it’s everywhere, browsers are everywhere, and now it is also an application platform. So what are native, hybrid, and web apps?


iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, you use a variety of languages based on the app market you want to target. Why native? Go native for performance, offline mode, find ability, device integration, monitization, user experience. You can make money with app stores. But what exactly is the native advantage? For example, now with WebGL we can do 3D in HTML.

Web App/Hybrid:

Html5, JavaScript, canvas, OpenGL, web sockets, css3, phone gap, ability to code one and export to different places (like with build.phonegap.com) Code reuse, common technologies, low entry barrier, cross-platform, familiar tools and techniques. While this doesn’t work for all applications just look at the trends, JavaScript performance is improving, hardware acceleration is coming, rapid browser evolution (short release cycles for Firefox), new tools frameworks coming out all the time.

Web vs Web Apps

Basically a web app is installed and able add to home screen. Then you have ChromOS, boot2gecko, where it simulates the native experience.

Collin from Liip (@colinfrei)

Why do an app instead of a web page? To access device functionality, camera, etc. discover ability via app store, reach different audiences than via a Google search, selling your app, ability for in-app subscriptions, easy for people to tap and spend money. Barriers? NIWEA is an answer, wrap your content in an app container, hence you can use Cocoon, Phonegap, etc.

  • Phonegap: it is a container, gives access to device functionality via API using JavaScript. What are the advantages?
  • Knowledge: many web developers know JavaScript, lower barrier to entry, portability, can reuse the code for different devices.
  • Portability: Means you can view the sites on your browser, if you write the code well you can port the stuff anywhere and reuse it. All these things affect costs, so hybrid allows you to use advantages of native.

Phonegap is good with APIs that are wide ranging, and then use plugins to offer specific functionality, but it isn’t universal. In the end you still have to write some unique code for different devices and their unique app needs. Concerning app performance, native is always better by definition, and it depends on your use case, like games that are device intensive for hardware optimization, but you can try game closure and cocoon.js, it all depends on what your goal is.

TV App for Tages-Anzeiger:

The purpose of the app is that they just show you the good TV shows, based on their recommendations. You can stream output to your tv and devices, it’s free to try and then is subscription based. It’s an iPad app, but lots of it was Html5 and JavaScript. Video is done via Html5, Phonegap was used to wrap it for the app store. In-app plugin purchases was used for monitization. Did not do much with portability to other devices because everyone is using the iPad anyways. Development done in the browser and tested, then ported to iPad. In total, everything was good with using phonegap.

The Future

Hybrid is expected to be the future. Using the same code base is such an advantage in development. The hybrid aspect becomes much smaller, browsers will be able to implement device features, like camera tag in html5, that is now possible. Check mozilla API , see what sensors you will be able to access.

@kripsVikram Kriplaney local.ch mobile architect


At local.ch they look at the breakdown of numbers for devices, iOS, android, etc. Why native? Well when they started developing for mobile it was 2008, they had expertise in iPhone, they had a mobile website, it was logical to first get a launcher from the phone and then just use the mobile optimized webpage.

In the end, user experience is biggest reason to go native. The user has expectations for that device, and they should respect that experience designed for that device. Performance is a big reason as well. Trust that the device maker has done all the optimization needed to give good UX via tight integration with hardware. Integration with other apps also good – more fine grain control. Now there are more frameworks than platforms for development, some are cross platform, some more on web side.

Leaky abstractions: any nontrivial abstraction will leak, you want to forget the details, but you end up for developing for each platform anyways. So why not go fully native from the start? Naturally for this you need a team with a wide range of competence, which local.ch has. The more audience they have on any platform, the more effort they put into developing for that platform as the platform evolves, launcher the web, hybrid, native. They do do hybrid, do it when it makes sense.

End Questions/Comments

  • Is local storage a problem? In principle, offline functionality is not a problem.
  • For testing, you can do automated builds and do UI testing with test flight.
  • Backbone, spine as single page applications, for more responsive website.
  • Yes mobile is going to take over.

Video Poetry Berlin-Zurich Rough Cut

 The first rough cut from my video poetry collaboration with DJ Cue is up. The music was composed by DJ Cue (Bobby Cuevas) while I provided the visuals and recorded ambient audio. This was made possible thanks to Talenthouse.com and their Creative Invite collaboration platform. This is a rough cut, so it doesn’t include the poetry dialogue that I will eventually add (actually, I’m looking for a woman with a nice classic German accent to do some voice recording), but it’s a nice visual representation of what I’m trying to create. Video imagery includes the abandoned Bärenquell Brauerei in East Berlin, Barbara running through Zurich Bahnhofstrasse (shoot organized with Ethan Oelman), and also a quick look from a underground club night in Berlin, part of an Alternative Berlin night tour I did in the city. Thanks to everyone involved, now that I’ve setup my computers in my new apartment I can get back to shooting and creating on a more normal basis. Enjoy…


Ignite Zurich – Art – Rarity and the Web

I gave talk at the 1st Ignite Zurich (Dec. 2nd at The Hub Zurich) centered on art, rarity, and what that means in the context of the internet and web technologies. A big thank you to Inês Santos Silva for organizing, the night was an awesome inspirational event. Here’s a break down of the ideas I put into my talk…

The Value of Art

What is the value of art, why is it traded for money and why is it sometime considered priceless? The value of art is a combination of traditional supply and demand, rarity, and context. you can’t assign value to art without considering the context of it’s creation. the time and place, and how it fits in with the overall context of the art scene at that particular point in time, that will never come again. Yes, it’s possible that your five year old could have painted that, but they didn’t. Art is idea execution. If you were the first person to put your shit in a can and sell it, you would eventually command a price of over 100,000 USD, but if you do it now it’s just considered a strange precousur to insanity and generally socially unacceptable.

What is Art?

Art is a combination of having the new idea and executing it. Art is not an idea, it is the creation of something significant, just as an idea is worthless in a startup company that doesn’t execute it well. Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft all executed their ideas at the right points in time, but they weren’t necessarily the first. It doesn’t matter is someone “stole” your startup idea, it matters if a company was created from that idea. That’s the execution and beauty of it. Now, at this point in time you can launch your own social network, search engine, and software company, but it won’t have the same impact, unless it brings something new and is understood to be genius in the current context of the tech scene. It doesn’t matter if you paint a new Mona Lisa, the idea is done (and overdone and redone in reproductions).

The unique thing about art is that the work gets value at any point in time so long as it fits the context of the history of an art movement, or rather is a disruption. Vincent van Gothe died barely selling a painting. If it’s not discovered and put into context it’s worthless. This is why artists get discovered later on but younger artists are promoted more than older ones when they come onto the art scene. You want the work of the young artists before they become “big” but it’s just a gamble that that will actually happen. So, logically you should create some great work and then kill yourself, because this ensures that you won’t be able to produce any more excellent art. The first person to paint grey instead of blue and red and green would be considered amazing, and all the rest that follow will just be part of the movement. Without the movement, no one cares about the first one, it has no value.

Context vs Content

How can an artist create the context for the work to have value? Or should you just create things and hope that they have some value for other people? The Doktor of Science in me says you get to the heart of the beast and just create or engineer your own context to create value. A piece of art work is a container for an idea, it’s a physical execution of an idea that can be viewed and reinterpreted as needed by society. Nobody cares what the first design of Google looked like, we just want to use it. Maybe the first sketch will sell for a million dollars one day, like the first apple computer, but only because of the context of history. This is because on the internet content is king. People was to use the technologies of the internet, not just be influenced by the ideas.

The UX Perspective

One thing I learned from hanging out with people at the Zurch UX Book club is some of the psychology behind buying things. When things are rare, inside of you is triggered that, “buy it now” mentality. When you see there’s only a few things left in stock, you’re pressured to buy it now. This probably goes back to the natural instinct to collect things and then trade them later on for things you might want from other people, the beginnings of capitalism. So I thought, how can I create a “buy it now” context for my art? In a world of immersion and augmented reality, installations will be the containers. Will we really care if things are real or not? Will it matter if it’s the real Mona Lisa or not? The experience will probably become more and more necessary to have an impact, but we’re not there just yet.

Art Death Concept

The Art Death concept is an auction platform idea I started putting together after taking a professional artist seminar at the F&F Kunst Schule with Olga Stefan. To combine the ideas of art with value related to context and the percieved value of art increasing due to psychological tendencies related to rarity, the best thing is to create an auction where the context of value is engineered into the platform, or rather, the performance.

I can accomplish this by putting up my art for auction on a combined internet and real world platform, having a reserve bid for each piece and a time constraint. If the work doesn’t sell for the reserve price, I have to destroy it personally with various dramatic methods. Like taking a rusty chainsaw or a flame thrower and purifiying the world of my mistakes that don’t sell because they have no value to society. It will take some preparation to do this thing right, and I think some fundraising via Kickstarter is in order.

My Awesome Hedingen Wohnung zu Mieten

Various events in life now make it necessary to find a new renter for my current apartment, my wohnung is now free zu mieten. It’s at Arnistrasse 16, CH-8908 Hedingen in the Zurich countryside. In order to promote the project, I decided to make a website for it. It was a great time to apply my knowledge of SEO, and first I picked up the domain www.hedingen-wohnung.ch and then starting putting together some photography for the site. I needed some proper pictures for the apartment  – well, technically it’s more of a house, anyways, it was the ideal time to start playing with HDR photography. I played with the HDR option in Photoshop (CS3) and it resulted in some amazingly horrible results. So, I decided to get a proper program HDR tone-mapping program. After a little searching I decided on Photomatix Pro, a fine piece of software that makes high dynamic range imaging painless and the results are fantastic.

The apartment is fabulous combination of an old 200 year farm house rebuilt from the inside, but retaining much of the original wood and structure. A steel stair case connects the floors and the whole place is like a warm hug. On the top floor there’s a gallery and I put my photo studio up there. The ceiling is high enough for a small trampoline, but I just have a background setup.

Getting the place ready to shoot also entailed clearing things away to make it all minimalist and show off the design (as opposed to views of my camera equipment cluttering up the floor space). When you get that far you might as well wash the floors too, so I did that and then setup my Sony A900 with a 20mm Minolta lens to shoot my first interior images. I’ve seen amazing house photography before, but was mainly just hoping to produce some nice images. Happily, Photomatix is an excellent software program and you can easily produce natural looking images with minimal time input. I supplemented the natural light in one image with an Elinchrom strobe, but otherwise it was all just natural light. Photomatix gives you different tone mapping options which range from that horrible gaudy-over-saturation look to the very natural, almost like you’re standing there, but with a little pop so it feels just a tad like the image is from Wonderland look.

Arnistrasse 16 is easily the best designed place I’ve ever lived in, and I feel like I’m walking through a magazine some days. It includes such funky amenities as an induction oven and internet connection in every room. It’s a certified Minergie place, which means it uses the minimal energy for heating and cooling. It technically has four floors, with an open gallery on the top level where you can setup a studio, or an office if you like. More information on the wohnung is on the main site, www.hedingen-wohnung.ch and if you’re interested in visiting the place I would be happy to show you around.

Piotr Soluch – Web Portraits Zurich

The latest addition to the Web Portraits Zurich project is Pitor Soluch, he just opened his web design business in Zurich, and I photographed in my new studio space in Hedingen. I hadn’t worked many projects lately, between moving out and moving in and running a few marathons I didn’t find a lot of time to organize any shoots or projects this summer. I met Piotr at a few web gatherings in Zurich like Web Monday, and we also ran into one another at the 2011 Swiss Startup camp in Basel. He’s an intricate designer with that required attention to detail that makes the difference between a professional site, and the ones that I throw together. For the shoot be came by with cookies and Polish beer. This was a fantastic combination and the shoot went smoothly for both of us.

I wanted to get back to fine painterly shadows and images with a dramatic feeling. This included lighting Piotr with some CreativeLight strip boxes from behind either shoulder, a Metz MZ40 in a beauty dish from the front and LastoLite TriLite reflectors from the front. I then pulled in some textures from Rome and the abandoned hospital of Beelitz, just outside of Berlin. There’s no substitute for fantastic texture images. I’ll walk around a city for hours shooting walls and the streets and then maybe not use them till a year later. They add something you never expected when the shoot started.

Web Monday Zurich #21

It was a fine summer Zurich night, and I was heading back to the Web Monday Zurich gathering to check out what was happening at our wonderful host, Interxion. There were many events worth noting during this Monday, but the main points include Interxion, 42 Matters, Restorm, and above and beyond customer support by a Googler.


Eddy van den Broeck presented Interxtion, a data center in Glattbrugg in Zurich, and the host of this 21st Web Monday Zurich. I had a little trouble finding the Interxion building, but it’s probably a little hard to find because it’s better that way for the security of their business. Interxion is a data center. A large data center. In fact, a very large data center in the center of Europe. I never really appreciated the data center business until this presentation. Interxion sells secure reliable data space. A simple idea executed with high precision and reliability. The scope of their operation is huge, and these types of centers will be the backbone of our digital future (actually they’re already pretty integral to everything). Politicians keep harping on cyber security and the next big war, but I’m guessing that in the future if you really want to fight a war with someone you won’t care about their military bases or missile silos, you’ll just target their data centers with tunneling cluster bombs in an effort to cut the beast off at its head (this part about wars and beasts and decapitation with cluster bombs is my own fantasy – not part of the Interxion presentation).

Interxtion is located in the very near vicinity of the Zurich airport. I didn’t realize this was relevant information, but I’m sometimes slow comprehending the world around me. Why near the airport and why in Switzerland? Power, fiber optics, customers, political stability, connectivity. All things a giant information storage space needs to be successful. As we do more and more on the net we tend to forget that big data needs to be somewhere…physical. Even the cloud has be a cloud somewhere, it’s not just a fanciful collection of Smurfs shuffling your data between magic mushroom fields and your iPad or Asus Transformer – and there are many real-world factors that need to be in place. For example, Interxion uses more power than the Zurich airport and yet are CO2 neutral. The mechanical engineer in me found this absolutely fascinating. I actually chose my latest internet service provider iMountain largely because they run their operation on solar power, and I like to support Green. Interxtion offers this choice to their customers as well, allowing and promoting the use of alternative energy sources for customers, for example, wind power sources for energy consumption instead of nuclear. Why Switzerland? Best power grid in Europe, politically stable, in the center of everything – makes sense to me (I can list these same reasons for choosing to live and work in der Schwiez myself).

In closing Eddy spoke about the drive to create a Silicon Valley inspired innovation culture in the Zurich area – code named: The Zurich IT Valley. This is a theme people are often talking about, but implementation is always a question. Swiss startup folks visit places like San Francisco and them come back with tales of how awesome it is over there and how things need to change in the Zurich area. However, Silicon Valley wasn’t built by purpose (at least there was no city planning blue-print, even Apple doesn’t have a central campus yet), it was an organic evolution of the innovation society, probably dating all the way back to the atomic bomb. There are real grass-roots movements in the Zurich area like Web Monday, Mobile Monday, Web Tuesday and The Hub, where the locals meet and organically develop communities that define a healthy environment for startups and innovation culture. The Zurich IT Valley sounds like a more structured approach, let’s see what the next five years will bring.

42 Matters

The first startup presentation was by Andrea about AppAware.org – the first app offering from a new startup out of ETH Zurich called 42 Matters. The name of the company is self-explanatory if you’ve read the till the end of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and it not then it doesn’t matter. I mean, the relevance of the name, not the worth of the company. AppAware is an application which shows you what people are installing on Android devices. You can see the installation trends, see what’s hot, what’s not, and based on that info decide for yourself what apps to install on your own device. AppAware is location aware, so you can see what the people around Zurich have installed (and uninstalled). Naturally you can connect to friends to see what they’re doing and copy their behavior if you happen to be a sheep grazing in the mobile app feeding fields. You can tag apps and…do what most social network type apps are doing – and in this field, idea execution is everything. As I began to consider an ASUS Transformer I understand why this sort of app is needed. By contrast you can easily see in the Apple app store if a an app is good or not, read reviews and see if there’s compatibility issues with the latest release. I couldn’t really find the same info planning which apps to buy for an Android device, and AppAware would fill that need.

Is there a way that AppAware is making money? Not at the moment, but there are high hopes for the future, such as providing apps for money and data mining. AppAware/42 Matters is an ETH startup, it originally began as part of a PhD project, and was successful enough to found a company. Seems like a reasonable direction, but in the SWOT sense of the mobile landscape it seems like AppAware could be a stepping stone to something better for the founders – as opposed to the final killer product. The thing is, apps like AppAware have no security against competitors, and even if you’re the first to market it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. A new hot trending app can come along with the same\similar technology and suck up your users like a sponge wiping across the universe or a second straw in your milkshake. Still, part of the reason the founders put their ETH studies on hold was because their idea got so big so quickly, and that pulse could continue to grow with the explosion of mobile devices on the world. I wish them well.


I’m a Doktor of Science, but I’m also into photography, painting, and small production video creation. So Restorm.com was naturally very interesting for me to learn about. There is a very large market for licensed music and media on the internet, but a lot of it is simply shared or pirated. I know this well, and there are many times I want to use a piece of music in a video production, but as an independent hobby-director I have no way to license music legally to use in my work. I’ve resorted to creating my own music, and now I’m collaborating with a DJ from Atlanta I met on Talenthouse.com. Working with DJCue is a great solution for me, and this anecdote is actually a success story for Talenthouse, but the vast majority of folks don’t have time to forge partnerships like I’ve had the ability to do, and just want to easily license music for their projects as easily as buying the song on iTunes. Restorm is a company trying to do that (well, compared to the way it is now it would be as easy as iTunes).

Philippe (from Restorm) wants to make it easy to allow direct licensing agreements between musicians and producers needing music for films and other projects. This is huge for people like me, who have been wondering since the beginning of time (ok, maybe 3 years at least) why we can’t do this already. From the presentation, it seems like Restorm is taking the right angle on the licensing issue. The photography stock market has basically been destroyed by microstock companies such as ShutterStock, who built unsustainable business models ideal for designers needing cheap images but pretty poor for photographers (think ShutterStock) looking to profit from their imagery. Companies like Photoshelter and Alamy provide credible licensing options for photographers, but I think that Restorm can do something really significant in the area of creative works licensing if they’re successful starting with licensing music. I’m looking forward to their full launch.

The After Party

After the presentations the best part of any given Web Monday begins, the time of drinks by the BBQ and networking with all manner of interesting people. I was mingling and hanging out with folks like Mike Byte to catch up on his latest projects and by the end of the night witnessed a customer feedback session that forever proves in my mind that Google is not evil, and is composed of caring people focused on providing an enjoyable experience for their customers.

It went down like this, I was talking in a circle of friendly conversation with some folks (including a Googler), admiring business cards (I had forgotten mine) and making smart remarks about this and that newest thing. I vaguely recall something about tactile surfaces perhaps, or a smart phone display built wth thin-film piezo technology, which will power the devices by user gestures. Then a tall man in a light colored suit, and pressed shirt walked up to us. He seemed out of place at a Web Monday, where even the folks from IBM don’t come in suits. He was a well-dressed man with well-groomed hair and a suit and a tie in a sea of web hipsters with tactile business cards, Freitag bags, disheveled hair cuts, and relaxed-fit jeans (I was sporting a fine pair of white leather Adidas by the way).

One of our circle of conversation was a Googler, wearing his fine Google t-shirt. The well-dressed man didn’t seem to be very happy, and we soon found out it had to do with Google. The conversation started off innocently, our Googler was showing off his phone sporting Android, and we were engaged in dialogue about how some people put a piece of paper over the camera port on their iMac because they’re a little freaked out at the new technology (as did I at first). The iPhone location tracking scandal was in the news at that time, and then our well-dressed friend began making remarks about Google being evil and how he deleted his account. We asked about his line of work and turns out he was a risk manager. So he was keenly clued in to all manner of freaky things that could go wrong in life, backed up by mathematical models, and I think he was a little paranoid – Paranoid that Google was evil and hell bent on taking over all our lives, but then the real reason for his quiet rage came out.

You see, he had set up a Google AdWords account, and he was pissed off that AdWords wasn’t showing up on his chosen search terms, even when his colleagues tried to search from different browsers. He seemed like a meticulous person, and as it turns out, had double checked and tried everything. The main page of his company was on the front page of Google (thanks to organic search optimization), but apparently for AdWords the search terms didn’t hit. There’s no customer service line for AdWords, and he was uber frustrated at the whole experience. Our Googler friend began a solution-oriented approach, bringing up different things that could be wrong, desperately trying to help our well-dressed friend with now fiery eyes, slightly reminiscent of lava about to explode from a deep crack in the surface of the Earth. This went on for maybe 10 minutes…did you try..ah…YES I TRIED THAT..what about..YES I DID THAT AS WELL.

It’s hard to describe the crescendo of rage that was now emanated from the eyes of our well-dressed friend, and for a second I thought we were heading to an apex in energy and he was going to rip off his blazer and punch our Googler in the face because of his poor AdWords user-experience. I’ve been studying user experience this past year, and also have shared this personal rage at wanting to throw a computer out the window, but when you have a representative of the company at the root of your rage directly in front of you, well, the bull’s eye is obvious for your rage canon. This is the point in a confrontation when you either fight back or accommodate to and empathize with the feelings of the aggressor and diffuse the bomb as it were. Our brave Googler handled the situation as any upstanding professional should. He pulled out his Google business card and offered to personally help in the matter.

This defused the situation because some one was listening – and listening is at the heart of user experience satisfaction. It’s the difference between OSX and Windows Vista. It’s the center that this social media tech world revolves around. A real person was offering to help and get to the root of the issue and was sincere in showing that he cares. In an instant the fiery eyes cooled and the rage diffused into the cool Zurich night sky. Our well-dressed friend remarked to me (now with a slight smile on his face), that if Google didn’t change its ways that everyone would simply leave and go to some other search giant. I remarked, that unlike the US economy, Google is too big to fail. He laughed now with genuine joy and agreed with me – a huge smile upon his face, and faded into the fine Zurich night like the Cheshire Cat blending into the background of Wonderland.